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Scaling your start-up: hiring leaders

Views, 26 April 2017
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Scaling your start-up: hiring leaders
by Aileen O’Toole, Chief People Officer, Naspers.

In my last post I spoke about the talent tipping point that founders inevitably reach as their start-up scales. Part of that challenge is hiring senior talent – finding the leaders who will work with founders to transition from start-up to a high-growth business.

Many of the founders I speak to know what experience they need on board to scale, but they are sceptical about the ability of candidates to deliver in a start-up culture – their ability to succeed where there is little structure, their ability to strategise but also roll-up their sleeves.

Recruiting senior leaders is essential to fuel growth and move your business forward. Here are five tips for success:
  1. Look for an ownership mentality. Look for people who think like owners rather than employees, who want to get to the heart of your business and close to your customers. Make sure they have a track record in building teams and can show evidence that they’ve had a hands-on role.
  2. Don’t be blinded by the power of a brand. It’s tempting to be reassured by a strong employer or consumer brand on a resum√©. Don’t confuse previous employers with pedigree – being hired previously by a company you admire doesn’t mean they have what it takes for you. Dig deep to ensure the candidate can add value in the context of your business.
  3. Embrace and empower people who will challenge you. Hiring people who are better than you in their field can be uncomfortable, but when you get it right, you’ll notice they can push your thinking in new directions and free you up to get on with what you do best. People who can challenge you in a constructive way will make your business stronger.
  4. Don’t be stifled by the views of those around you. It’s important to take advice from stakeholders like investors and existing team members on senior hires, but remember that you have the clearest idea of what’s needed. Listen to input but trust your instincts.
  5. Make talent acquisition part of your business agenda. Acquiring and managing talent is strategic – it’s not just an action for HR. Make room in your diary to meet key people and allocate budget for senior hires as part of your financial planning cycle.
Finding the right leaders can be the difference between missing your moment and riding the wave of growth. Now is the time to take the plunge and hire the senior talent you need to transition to scale, no matter how unnerving.

Photo credit: Tetiana Savaryn/

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